Lewis Black takes on authority figures and pop culture in scathing social commentary
He’s not trying to change the world, but he does want to make you laugh. Comedian Lewis Black comes to the Vilar Center Sunday at 7:30 p.m. for what he calls the oddest family show in comedy.
“I swear a lot,” he said. “But where do you think kids learn profanity? At home.”
So, while he drops the F-bomb constantly, he’s talking about golf, a trip to Ireland or the war in Iraq, normal dinner-table type conversation, with a few superlatives thrown in.
“I’ve got 12-year-olds who like the character as much as what I’m saying,” he said. “There’s this guy their dad’s age who’s yelling and screaming. It taps into something.
Most people are frustrated, appalled. There’s too much information out there. You can barely wade through it – everybody’s getting screwed. I have two degrees and I can’t figure out the Medicare program. They call it a landmark. It’s a landmark because it’s incomprehensible.”
Black has an opinion on everything. A “Comedy Central” veteran and frequent guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” he’s working on a special for HBO. He discovered improv through theater. It was a good way to get his material out there. He had no idea he’d found the basis of a whole new career. He, like almost all comics, is self-taught.
“Learning comedy is like trying to learn boxing without anybody teaching you,” he said. “You’re trying to learn how not to get hit.”
Now that he’s got his game on, it’s a whole different ball game. He looks to our immediate culture for stand-up fodder:
“I’m the only comic that talks about the tax cut, the deficit. This is all funny stuff, the stuff comedy’s made of.”
Add in America’s obsession with health, weather forecasters, the horrific nature of pop culture, homeland security and the usual subjects – Michael Jackson, Arnold, his beloved president – and presto, you’ve got laughs.
“My job is not to love these people,” he explained. “Part of what I bring to the table is I find authority figures hysterical.”
According to Black, most intelligent Americans allow authority figures to talk to them in a way that they wouldn’t have in high school.
“Bush talks to them as if they’re 9 years old,” he exclaimed. “Clinton talks to them as if he’s trying to sell them a car. A good comic has a point of view. And mine comes from having a suspicion of authority from the time I got out of junior high.”
Black lives in New York City, calling it the only city to live in. But once upon a time, nigh on 30 years ago, he lived in Colorado Springs. He knew it was time to leave when the newspaper declared in big red letters on the front page: Commie bigwig comes to town. He packed his bags and hit the road.
He’s happy to return to Colorado, but doesn’t plan on skiing. Mostly, he’ll be concentrating on breathing, smoking and inducing chuckles.
“I think the function of laughter is the same thing that releases pressure in a pressure cooker,” he said. “Letting off steam is not really the way to put it, but it allows people to ventilate. It also allows people to step back from what is, at times, a frustrating and painful situation. Probably not directly, comics don’t talk to the audience’s situations. It’s a vacation.”
Though it’s a vacation, it’s a vacation with incentive.
“The blind will see and the crippled will walk,” he promised.